A UK pianist appeals for visa-free EU travel

A UK pianist appeals for visa-free EU travel


norman lebrecht

December 30, 2020

Letter from Susan Tomes in today’s Guardian:

My experience is of the classical sector, but I imagine the situation is similar in other genres: when you’re building a reputation, you often barely break even on performances abroad. The post-Brexit imposition of visa fees, carnets, certification of the value of instruments and so on will mean that playing in Europe is simply not viable for many UK musicians. For classical musicians this is especially painful, because it is precisely in EU countries, with their long tradition of support for this music, that performers feel particularly valued. I hope that our government will look again at this situation and grant musicians the same visa-free access to Europe that many other professionals have been offered.
Susan Tomes



  • pianoguy says:

    Quit your pained pleas and carping, dear woman, it’s too little, too late. Brexit means Brexit (whatever that means when the dust settles). Get back to practicing your scales.

    • Nick Schleppend says:

      Cherchez l’homme [dégoûtant!!!]

    • Michael Hunt says:

      How rude! Protecting the creative industries after Brexit is no different in principle to safeguarding UK fishing industry. Why should Brexit result in one industry being disadvantaged more than another. Surely this should have been the focus of negotiation. Rudeness is never a solution or even a sensible strategy.

    • Caractacus says:

      Very rude and unnecessary. If you are a musician you would understand the reasoning behind the plea that Susan Tomes is making. Oh, and you can’t spell ‘practising’!

      • Maria says:

        He’s turned the noun ‘practice’ into the verb, like Americans just love to do! Ha, ha!!! Doesn’t realise there is a verb ‘to practise’ in its own right without using mangling the noun ‘practice!’ LOL!

        • Eric says:

          The fact that Brits endlessly carp about minor variations in English usage simply betrays their insecurity.

          • Paul Brownsey says:

            DOES it “betray their insecurity”?

            Oh dear. Someone should do research on how comment boards attract an above-average number of amateur psychiatrists.

          • Hayne says:

            The way the psychiatrists have changed views and ideas so often over the years on so many different things, I would think amateur psychiatrists can also offer their opinions:)

    • Stephen Harding says:

      The author of the letter is an outstanding concert pianist and author and knows of what she speaks. Meanwhile you can’t spell practising.

  • Soprano says:

    Welcome to the “wonderful” world of non European musicians. Visas, bans, burocratic problems make it almost impossible to work in Europe, unless you are a superstar.

    • Maria says:

      If there will be any work over there for n9n-stars! The profession won’t go back to what it was by a long shot for absolute years, and what work there is may well be offered to their own musicians and singers, and a visa would be easy enough to get as it will work both ways with Europeans coming to Britain, partclarkt the erlote musicians and sdingers. Maybe some of our own outstanding but often neglected British musicians will now get a look, particularly in over and above all the Orientals in our music colleges. According to the BBC and colleagues f mievwho teach, something like 45% of Royal Northern College of Music pianists are from Korea or China or Japan. Don’t know for certain about the singers or the rest. They get visas all the time and play for very little money just to gain the prestige to become gods in China.

  • Hornbill says:

    Errr… It’s not down to “our government” to grant visa free access to Europe. It’s down to the governments of the countries you want to go to.

    “Our” government has comprehensively failed to get visa free access built in to the surrender* agreement passed today in parliament but that’s water under the bridge now.

    (“Surrender” agreement because, as Theresa May put it, “it’s a trade deal that benefits the EU and not a services deal that would have benefitted the UK”).

  • la plus belle voix says:

    Dear Susan, if I may, whilst I wholly see your point about post-Brexit impositions on UK musicians, I fear you labour under the misconception that the United Kingdom is somehow not in Europe, and by extrapolation, not actually European. The only important thing is establishing a level playing field; thus, I trust your government will allow musicians from continental European countries to perform in the UK under the same conditions your ilk may be granted, or not as the case may be, over here.

  • Tomtom says:

    Well said Susan, and just as an aside, I really enjoyed reading your books. ‘Sleeping in Temples’ and ‘Speaking the Piano’. ….ever onwards…

  • Nijinsky says:

    There must be a punch line there somewhere, like when some poor kid, not knowing he’s been duped, and that the B word is not the proper English translation of Minister, the S word not for food and the F word not for dressing, and when his parents are getting dressed the minister shows up early, although the foods ready “Hi minster the food’s on the table and my parents are upstairs dressing,” that being supposed a punch line; the minister, being very clever wonders about the avenue of what goes on upstairs in order to get down on the table, and then replies: “That’s really nice, but who is going to baptize the pups?”

    fortunately the kid had read Harry Potter, and so he replies: “Oh, you’re Lord Voldemort.”

    In regards that it is hoped that the government will look again at the situation, which I think is about the most typical overly relied on angle to provoke people’s sentiments. “You see there’s this one thing here, and I know you think the whole ocean exists, but please take care of this one drop, this one gripe here….”

    And it’s still insulting to the B word.

  • Nijinsky says:

    Just in case my other post isn’t understood, as if everyone wouldn’t. The moral is: When sitting down to dinner, make sure that you have your seat belt fastened – travel, transportation and the permission given for it MUST be safe…

  • Miko says:

    Apparently there is no problem at all according to Mr Mark Pemberton and his Association of British Orchestras “star chamber”.
    (They’ve been mutually back scratching at the DCMS, and our glory days lie ahead of us apparently)

  • La plus belle voix says:

    Susan, your statement “when you’re building a reputation, you often barely break even on performances abroad” is, when measured against the yardstick of mostly very generous performing fees offered by presenters in larger EU countries such as France and Germany, patently erroneous. Surely you are aware that vast numbers of renowned soloists from continental Europe play for a pittance in, e.g. London, and many make a financial loss. Some British orchestras would over the last 20 years or so never have survived were it not for extensive German tours.

    • Nijinsky says:

      You are right there 100% and extremely helpful if I may simply by stroking some more electromagnetic wringings from this machinery add: not only are they from continental you’r-rip it’s “continual”

  • Witold says:

    Why only classical musicians?

  • Nijinsky says:

    I understand the extreme memory of pain and the feeling of captivity, but over there isn’t over here, and it’s fine to take a break from it. Without going into other dimensions or what was already resolved before it began, a simple decoration on a pot, an embellishment can take life sometimes more than all of your worries. Susan. And such wishes to spread wings, you can find them in poetry, in stories, in taking a walk and feeling the wind bless you coat as if you can fly, in music, in architecture, in peace keeping, in life…..